WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats on Tuesday of opening "the flood gates of mud and muck" against Brett Kavanaugh as Republicans sought to portray efforts to derail the Supreme Court nominee over accusations of sexual assault in the 1980s as "the politics of personal destruction."
The Kentucky Republican's combative remarks about Democrats came as President Donald Trump and lawmakers await the FBI's reopened background check on the accusations against the 53-year-old jurist. Kavanaugh, whose Senate confirmation has been thrown into doubt by the accusations, has denied the claims by all three women.
They also came as the FBI finished interviewing Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge, who was said to have attended a high school gathering in the early 1980s where Christine Blasey Ford says she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh. A lawyer for Judge, who has denied any wrongdoing, declined to say when the interview finished or what Judge was asked.
The FBI is under White House orders to complete its probe by week's end but can interview anyone it wants, according to a person who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Democrats are pressing the investigators to expand their list of witness interviews but have agreed with the timeline. McConnell has said the Senate will vote on Kavanaugh this week.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said that to assert that Ford went public with her allegation for political reasons is "so unfair, is so wrong." The New York lawmaker said the women's claims deserve a full investigation but should be finished this week.
McConnell said that soon after the revelation of a letter by Ford asserting that Kavanaugh abused her at a high school gathering in Maryland, "The floodgates of mud and muck opened entirely on Brett Kavanaugh and his family. Out of the woodwork came one uncorroborated allegation after another, each seemingly more outlandish than the last."
Among the allegations McConnell criticized was one brought by a "tabloid lawyer" he did not name whose client has alleged she was victimized at a party attended by Kavanaugh friends and for which "there conveniently happened to be zero witnesses." Julie Swetnick made that assertion in a sworn statement and is represented by Michael Avenatti, who also represents adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her claim that Trump paid her for silence about an alleged 2006 affair.
"The politics of personal destruction were willfully unleashed" by Democrats, McConnell said, adding, "This is not politics as usual."
Judge has completed his interview with FBI agents as part of the reopened background investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh, said his lawyer, Barbara "Biz" Van Gelder. She declined to say exactly when it ended or what Judge was asked. She had said Monday night that the interview was not completed.
Democrats, meanwhile, were raising questions about the truthfulness of Kavanaugh's sworn testimony to the Senate.
Schumer said Monday that Kavanaugh seemed willing to "mislead senators about everything from the momentous to the mundane" to ensure his ascension to the high court.
McConnell said Democrats are simply looking to "move the goalposts" to prevent Kavanaugh's confirmation. "The time for endless delay and obstruction has come to a close," he said.
Kavanaugh's confirmation hinges on a handful of key Republican and Democratic senators who have not yet fully tipped their votes. One is Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was greeted by hundreds of liberal protesters, victims of sexual assault among them, during an appearance Monday in Boston.
Flake and Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were instrumental last week in holding up Kavanaugh's confirmation vote. They forced the White House to open a supplemental background investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against the judge.
The votes of the three Republicans and those of red-state Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota will largely determine whether Kavanaugh is confirmed.
Kavanaugh has emphatically denied Ford's allegation that he sexually assaulted her at a gathering when they were teens. He has also denied an accusation from Deborah Ramirez, a classmate at Yale, who said he exposed himself to her at a dorm party more than 25 years ago. A third claim from Swetnick accuses Kavanaugh of excessive drinking and inappropriate treatment of women at parties in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh denies that as well.
Former classmates have stepped forward to challenge Kavanaugh's testimony about his drinking. Charles "Chad" Ludington, who said he was a friend of Kavanaugh's at Yale University and now teaches at North Carolina State University, called Kavanaugh "a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker." But the White House released statements from two other Yale classmates Monday who said they never saw Kavanaugh black out or treat women with disrespect.